Court Declines to Order Reproduction of Archived But Unusable Data
In Good, et al., v. American Water Works Company, Inc. et al., Civil Action No. 2:14-1374 (S.D. W.Va. April 17, 2015), the Southern District of West Virginia considered whether to compel a defendant to reproduce archived data responsive to plaintiff eDiscovery requests.
Defendant produced archived data but plaintiff argued that the data’s format was unusable and moved to compel. Defendant responded that it had produced the archived data (all of which was from a Microsoft SQL Server) in the manner in which it kept it in the usual course of business. Plaintiff wanted Defendant to reproduce the data as a Microsoft Excel file or as a “CSV” file.
Defendant objected to the motion and cited FRCP 26(b)(2)’s protections against having to produce data not reasonably accessible that would be unduly burdensome and costly to reproduce. Defendant stored the archived data on old hard drives and flash drives, and would need to load it into a different system from the one it currently used if it were to reproduce it in the form Plaintiff requested. Defendant also argued that Plaintiff could equally as easily convert the data into its preferred format as Defendant could.
Because Defendant produced the archived data in the manner in which it ordinarily maintained it, Defendant contended that it had complied with FRCP 34. Defendant also noted that it had objected to the relevancy of the archived data, which it argued supported its position that reproduction would be unduly burdensome and would outweigh any possible benefits.
The court agreed with Defendant that the archived data was not reasonably accessible. It also observed that although Defendant objected to the production on relevancy grounds, it nonetheless produced the data in the manner in which it maintained it, and provided Plaintiff with the means to access the data. Under FRCP 26(b)(2)(B) and (C), the court held that the costs of further production were not outweighed by any potential benefit, and denied Plaintiff’s motion to compel.